Saturday, February 18, 2017

Canadian motion to condemn Islamophobia turns out to be contentious

Unexpectedly, Motion M-103 appears to be a highly contentious piece of parliamentary discussion. It is not a bill, and it will not change Canadian law in any way; it is merely a motion, calling for a study and report. More specifically, it calls on the government to recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear, and to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination. It further calls for the development of a "whole-of-government approach to reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia", and for the government to report its findings to the House.
In the shadow of the recent deadly mosque attack in Quebec City, and a spike in anti-Islamic hate crimes in Canada, not to mention developments south of the border, this sounds pretty reasonable, right? I might quibble with the use of the word "Islamophobia", an over-used word which actually means a fear of Islam rather than a hatred of it, which I think is probably more what the motion's instigator, Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, was intending (might "anti-Islamism" be nearer the mark?). But surely it's hard to oppose the general thrust of the motion.
In fact, the motion has already seen some pretty torrid debates in the House, and there appears to a substantial amount of opposition to it. Some Conservative MPs are merely complaining about the use of the very specific word Islamophobia, and would prefer to see just a blanket condemnation of racism and discrimination against religions groups. An alternative motion has been proposed by some Conservatives, calling for condemnation of "all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance, and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious communities". I could go along with that, although any study that results from such a motion would only point out that Islam is by far the biggest recipient of hatred. It was specifically Muslims who were targeted in the Quebec City mosque attack recently, and Muslims who have been the main targets of the increasing number of hate crimes marring the country in recent months. And I, for one, am in favour of telling it like it is.
Some of the Conservative Party leadership hopefuls, however, have much stronger objections: Kellie Leitch has set up a whole website and petition, for what she calls "severely normal people", aimed at stopping the motion; Pierre Lemieux rails that "chronic political correctness is strangling free speech in Canada, and it has to stop"; Chris Alexander says that he couldn't possibly support the motion because it made no mention of "the number one threat in the world today, which is Islamic jihadist terrorism".
Online comments concerning the motion have, predictably, been even more outré, with some referring to Ms. Khalid as a "radical Muslim immigrant", a "terrorist", and a "cancer to Canada". One particularly disturbing YouTube video even suggested she be shot. Some websites have claimed that the motion will somehow change Canadian law (it won't), and even lead to jail terms for anyone heard criticism Islam. Rebel Media (Ezra Levant's ultra-rightist mouthpiece) referred to the motion as "sharia creep", suggesting that it is just the first step towards allowing Islamic sharia law in Canada (**sigh**).
I'm not sure if all of this says more about the current state of the Canadian Conservative Party, the current state of Canada, or the extent of the contagion spreading from the USA. Whatever the case, it is a sad and unwelcome development.

After weeks of bitter and toxic debate, M-103 passed anyway by a margin of 201-91, with all Liberal and NDP MPs voting for it, as well as a handfu7l of Conservatives. Some MPs may feel that they scored some important political points during the debates, but really it was all just a waste of expensive politicians' time, and a distraction from other more important issues (not that Ms. Khalid was to have know that at the outset).

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